Directed by Danny Boyle, starring Alexander Nathan Etel, Lewis Owen McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan and Christopher Fulford.
Danny Boyle has examined the temptations the arrival a bag of cash will bring before ('Shallow Grave', 'Trainspotting'). 'Millions' also deals with sudden riches and what to do with them. This time it's told from a child's perspective, and manages to capture that precious childhood time when life is simple and the imagination can help one deal with reality.
Damien (Etel), aged eight, and Anthony (Owen), 10, move to a new house in Manchester after their mother dies. They deal differently with their loss. Damien takes refuge in his book on the saints and imagines they visit him. He develops an impressive encyclopaedic knowledge - reeling off dates of birth, causes of death and miracles as easily as his classmates can no doubt name the local football team. Anthony, though not a bad kid, quickly cops on that the phrase "my mum just died" will get him a lot of free sweets.
Damien builds a cardboard retreat by the railway line. It is here, while he is chatting to St Clare who has popped in for a quick fag, that a Nike bag stuffed with £229,370 crashes in. He reckons God sent it ("who else would have that kind of money?") and wants to give it to the poor. Ever practical Anthony, who has one foot in adult life, would like to kick-start his property portfolio and get some shiny gadgets on the go. He warns Damien not to tell their dad (Nesbitt), as the government will take 40% away in taxes. Oh, and the boys need to spend it fast as the UK is in that as-yet-fictional time when it is about to convert to the euro, with all sterling useless in 10 days.
The conspicuous donating and spending starts to draw suspicion and it's not long until Dad finds out. Also, as the money was actually the proceeds from a bank robbery, and not minted in heaven, the inevitable baddie (a scary Fulford) comes back looking for his loot. After their house is ransacked, Dad and his new girlfriend (Donovan) opt for lodging as much cash as possible and spending it like the Beckhams.
Scripted by Frank Cottrell Boyce ('24 Hour Party People'), a father of seven himself, 'Millions' accurately portrays that familiar relationship between two siblings where the older one bosses and hoodwinks the other but at the same time is on the same side.
The two young, promising protagonists are newcomers and Boyle has handled them well, with fine performances from both, Etel's Damien being especially sweet. On the downside, 'Millions' starts to get muddled towards the end and are there are some random public info ads starring Leslie Phillips that annoy. Also Daisy Donovan's forced performance starts to quickly grate.
Boyle's creative visuals, a magical score and the use of 'Amélie'-like fantasy effects, give 'Millions' an original stamp.
A fatalistic policeman, blond Mormon neighbours and the saints' scenes, especially one with St Peter giving the low-down on what really happened that day of the loaves and fishes, add comic value and help make the film one not just for kids.
Overall it is a heart-warming, enjoyable effort and it looks like Danny Boyle has made a film all the family will enjoy.